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Looking for Armenia, and finding it globally.
Armenia in History and the Heart
Where is Armenia, the place, the idea? Where then? Where now? And how come the delight on top of the darkness in saying “I am Armenian”? Armenians were a tiny, ancient Indo-European people, between East and West, the first Christian nation, when Turkey wiped most of them off the map in 1915. It was the twentieth century’s grotesque model of mass slaughter of a people, a genocide by any measure. Yet there the Armenians are today—6, 7, maybe 8 million people in 80 countries of the world: a lively, secret club, somebody said: invisible to non-members but instantly recognizable to other Armenians. A world people with their own alphabet, language, cuisine, music, nightmares abounding—but art, too, and humor, despite everything.
The mass slaughter of Armenians in Turkey starting in 1915 is a bone still stuck in the throat of history. And it’s a jagged scar, an area of darkness in the hearts of a global diaspora. More than a million people were killed, much more than half of the Armenian nation, a century ago. It’s an atrocity brazenly denied ever since by the government of Turkey, a crime unrecognized by most nations, acknowledged finally as a genocide this spring by President Biden. Both branches of Congress voted that verdict against Ottoman Turkey two years ago. We’re listening this radio hour not for the politics of the story but for the personal experience of unspeakable loss among survivors and their descendants—family histories too horrible to be forgotten, or remembered.
Banner photo courtesy of Nubar Alexanian. Special thanks, too, to Laura Purutyan and Lerna Ekmekcioglu.
Photographer and documentarian.
Professor of Armenian art at Tufts.
Metropolitan Museum of Art